Whiskey is cementing itself as a worthwhile investment vehicle.
It’s a seductive scene. It’s after 10pm, the lights are low, everyone’s in a good mood and the sense of anticipation in the room is palpable. The waiter approaches and puts a glass down in front of me. My fingers curl lovingly – and protectively – around the heavy crystal tumbler. Clearly Waterford. I swirl the amber liquid and hold it to my nose to breathe its scent. I lift the glass to my lips…
I’m being romanced by… a glass of whiskey. This is Midleton Very Rare Pearl Edition. It’s 30 years old. Tonight I am enjoying supper in Warehouse 8 at the Jameson Experience in Cork, Ireland for its launch. And now it’s time for moment of truth as we all sip carefully… it is as the master distillers describe it. Honey and vanilla with a hint of gingerbread. It tingles in the front of my mouth, then slides down my throat easily, blazing a warm path into my stomach. Heaven. A rare experience, it is indeed.
This whiskey is rare not just for its age and taste but for its price as well. A bottle of this blend will set the would-be imbiber back by a breathtaking 6,000 euros. What’s more, even if you are ready, willing and able to splash the cash, it’s no guarantee you’ll snag it. Only 117 bottles were produced. And according to Brendan Buckley of the Irish Distillers, maker of Midleton, those bottles were allocated parsimoniously.
“All of it is pretty much spoken for,” said Buckley. “We had to limit individuals to two bottles – one gentleman who is an avid collector requested ten and we had to tell him it wasn’t possible. Our Chinese distributor wanted almost half the stock and we could only give them 20.”
Pearl is the child of a collaboration between the distillery’s new master distiller, Brian Nation, and the recently retired master, Barry Crockett. Crockett returned just to work with Nation on this project, having created the Midleton Very Rare brand in 1984.
The lucky acquirers of Midleton Pearl will be in possession of high works of art. Each bottle was hand-blown and its stopper hand-whittled to fit. The wooden box the bottle comes in was also hand-hewn from oak trees, felled in County Antrim in the north of the country.
“We thought that it would be a neat idea to create each bottle as a one-off,” said Buckley. “We had no idea what we were getting into.”
American whiskey aficionados are having no luck of the Irish in this instance, unfortunately. Due to the differences in standards for labelling and production of whiskey between the US and Ireland, Buckley said none of the Midleton Pearl will be exported to American shores. Yankees hankering after Pearl have the best shot at getting some by flying to Ireland, where the duty-free shop at Dublin Airport is harbouring a small supply.
With whiskey rising in popularity as an investment vehicle since the introduction of special editions in the Nineties, it’s altogether possible someone will make that flight. Whiskey Highland, based in England and run by Andy Simpson, produces the Investment Grade Scotch index. The index indicates that the value of the top 100 whiskies has risen more than 400% in the past six years. Whiskey investment funds have made their debut this year in Hong Kong and Singapore.
And what next for Pearl? Will it be another 30 years for another special edition?
“Well, the annual vintage releases of Midleton Very Rare will continue, but we also have some stunning new additions to the range maturing as we speak and should be ready before the end of next year.” said Buckley.